MARS: SOUTH POLE
by Chris Wayan, 2003
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The far south? What can I say? Mars Reborn is all about terraforming, and the far south is Nature's victory over terraforming. Or, not to be dramatic: Death over Life.
The North Pole has a Greenland-sized continent surrounded by an ocean full of life; and that ocean generates all the rain in the northern hemisphere. In stark contrast, the South Pole is a rugged highland doing nothing for life and quite a lot for death. The South Polar Cap generates blizzards--something the southern hemisphere, already high, rugged and cold, really could do without. The total volume of ice is not much--the land's so high and the air so thin that there's little precipitation. But its area, about the size of Greenland, is enough to sour an already hard climate. The wide stretches of tundra and desert around the cap, all the way down to latitude thirty in places, are windblasted, frigid and dry. An antipodal Siberia.
Here, even after a thousand years of planetary gardening, Mars seems barely changed--dead as ever. What life there is fits the pattern envisioned by the ancient writers of the Dark Age, peering through their telescopes; the Mars of Percival Lowell, with life only along lowland canals, or, better, CS Lewis's prescient Perelandra, in which the 'canals' turn out to be Mariner Canyons--linear oases of dense air and lingering water, surrounded by dead red highlands towering like stone thunderclouds.
Here in the south, Perelandra is true. Life in the cracks.
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